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Hello My Quarantined Friends,
One of the first requests we got for a demo was how to make espresso using an Aeropress. This is a tall order, because the definition and understand of what espresso is makes this literally impossible...unless you have superhuman strength.
Let me explain.
Espresso isn't a bean type or even really a drink. It's a brew method. Specifically, it's the act of pushing water through a tightly packed puck of coffee at 9 bars of pressure. That translates to 130 lbs per square inch of pressure. Hence the need to be superhuman to make espresso at home.
But, yes, I get it, that's a technicality. When people say espresso, what they are usually referring to (and, yes, I understand in recent years, especially in specialty coffee shops, what an espresso "is" is a bit of a moving target with super-long "coffee shots" and the like, but that's a long and convoluted discussion for another time) is a thick, viscous, 1-2oz beverage that consists of part coffee liquid and part crema, the creamy "topping" if you will, that sits on top of the shot. Something that looks like this:
Ok. So now that we're all on the same page here, how do we get this at home using an Aeropress? The sad truth is you can't. Not really. You can get sort of close. Probably closer to the coffee shots that are all the rage these days in specialty shops, but if you're looking for that thick, viscous, ristretto shot, you're not going to get it coming out of an Aeropress. You can't get enough pressure through the coffee to really get something like the above.
Don't be sad. We can get close! I spent the last few days playing around with different brew methods I found, and one cool gizmo that goes on the tail end of the Aeropress, and got some good results. The best you're going to get is a pretty thick, super short, super flavorful "shot" of coffee. Use a darker roasted coffee for best results. We have a "dark" version of our espresso blend (if you want this version, leave it in the notes when you order).
Method 1: Short Water Agitation:
The basic premise here is that you use a little bit of water, agitate it enough to draw out the flavors, and the press it hard.
Set-up using the inverted method, with the plunger part half-way through.
Pour in 17g of coffee, ground relatively fine. Not powdered sugar fine, but getting close. You'll know if it's too fine if you dislocate your shoulder trying to press this thing down in a minute.
Add 50g of hot water, just off of boil. Stir for 15 seconds or so, really get it saturated and agitated.
Put the cap on, flip it over a mug and PLUNGE HARD. Throw your weight behind it. Like a champ.
Method 2: Fake It till you Make It:
This method basically involves mimicking the whole espresso process.
Set-up your aeropress in the normal way (ie not inverted). Put in 18g of coffee.
Then you're going to get another filter, wet it, and stick it on the back end of a long, round spice shaker or whatever you have that can double as a tamper. (Pro tip - make sure it's long enough. The first time I tried this I used a spice shaker that definitely didn't reach to the bottom and have to flip it over to get the thing, ruining the whole project.)
Slowly drop that into the Aeropress and tamp the grounds down. You don't have to kill yourself forcing this down. Maybe 5 lbs of pressure or so. The weight of your hand. Keep the second filter on top of the packed grounds. To recap, you should have a filter above and below the packed grounds.
Then you're going pour in (slowly) 25g of water just off the boil. This should just sit on top of the second filter. Grab your plunger and press down hard with all your strength. This should be hard. We're trying to get as much pressure through that puck as possible. Remember, we're faking espresso. No one said it was going to be easy.
I found this method got me a creamier, heavier "shot" than the first method, but still no sign of real crema. But a lot of sweetness for sure. I was pleasantly surprised. I think the secret sauce here is packing the puck.
Method 3: Get an Add-On:
This isn't so much a method as it is a gadget. One of our favorite companies, Fellow, makes an attachment that you slap onto the end of an Aeropress that's supposed to help build pressure to give you "espresso." The Prismo is nifty in that it's cheap and does get you a slightly heavier "shot." It allows you to set it on a small cup than you would an Aeropress which helps with keeping it dense. I think a lot of the magic here is also with their metal filter which is letting in more oils and solids than the paper filters normally used with an Aeropress, too. The also recommend a longer infusion time than Method 2, which probably helps a lot in terms of extraction.
Of all the three methods we played with, I actually found the Prismo to get me the closest (still not really espresso as I understand it) to a shot of espresso. It's not bad at all and if you're just looking for something quick and dirty to add some milk to, it's not a bad option at all.